Book Review: The Mighty Queens of Freeville

This is a review of the book The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson. It was part of a MotherTalk blog tour, so they sent me the book and an Amazon gift certificate for reviewing the book.

The reason I took this book to review is that it's written by Amy Dickinson, who writes the syndicated advice column "Ask Amy." And since I write an advice column, I thought it might be an interesting glimpse into what the life of a different advice columnist (read: one who gets paid for doing it) is like.

But it's not really about that. What it is about is bumbling your way into a happy life after your Plan A--getting married to someone you love and having a family with him--goes south.

Amy is an engaging writer, and makes all of her misadventures (and she had a ton of them as a single mom) sound simultaneously pitiful and picturesque. I think some people have this idea that anyone that's decent at giving advice must have it all together and be perfect. (If you've been reading this site for any length of time you know that's seriously NOT TRUE, but some people still think that.) Amy exposes all her weaknesses, but in such a charming and self-effacing way that you really do just want to be her friend. I mean, who wouldn't want to hang out with someone who writes this deadpan passage:

One time my mother and I were talking on the phone about our cats--one of our favorite topics. We liked to trade anecdotes about themand then decide which movie stars would be best suited to playing them in a movie.

I mean, really, that kind of unselfconscious geekdom just delights me. And she's just as open about dating misadventures, jobs, housing, the doubts she felt as a parent, and general existential crisis stuff.

The running thread of the book is the town of Freeville, New York, and Amy's extended family, mostly women (the "queens" in the title). I have to confess that I wish she'd write a sequel to this first book that would be exclusively stories of these women. They reminded me a lot of the women of my own family (we are a truly formidable group when all sitting around in the kitchen solving the world's problems), and made me homesick for my people and the Midwest.

I enjoyed this book because it gave me faith that people can recover from failure, even if it takes a few years, and end up doing meaningful work and having a happy family and finding love. Maybe I should reread it every few weeks just to stay on track, until Dickinson writes the next book that's only about her relatives.